EUSEW 2023: EBC invited to share the perspective of construction SMEs on the skills gap

This month of June has been particularly intense for environmental and sustainable discussions with the 2023 editions of the European Green week first and now the European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW), which took place from 20 to 22 of June. In this context, EBC was invited to share the point of view of Construction SMEs and crafts on the skills situation in the sector in several events.

On the first day of the official EUSEW 2023 program, on 20 June, EBC Secretary General Fernando Sigchos Jiménez was invited to debate in the policy session Decarbonising the EU’s building stock: addressing the skills gap? co-organised by the European Commission’s DG ENER and CINEA.

With an opening statement of Paula Pinho, Director at DG ENER, the panel brought together policymakers, industry professionals, and energy and training experts to discuss the importance of boosting the know-how and competences of the construction workforce to keep up with the energy transition and deliver on the 2050 climate neutrality ambition.

Under the moderation of Silvia Rezessy, Policy Officer at DG ENER, the Secretary General of EBC had the opportunity to exchange views with Philippe Moseley, Policy Officer at DG GROW, Felix Rohn, Policy Officer at DG EMPL, Christiane Egger, Deputy General Manager of the Energy Agency of Upper Austria OÖ Energiesparverband, Federica Sabbati, Secretary General of the European Heating Industry, and Jan Cromwijk, Project Manager at the Dutch training centre ISSO.

The lack of a sufficient workforce with relevant skillsets, including on digitalisation, hybridisation and system optimisation, is becoming a bottleneck despite ongoing efforts. According to the European Commission, 3 to 4 million construction workers in the EU need to develop energy efficiency-related skills. Building on that, the discussion focused on the ongoing efforts to ensure a sufficient and adequate workforce to make the Renovation wave a reality.

Recent industry estimates point to a need for an additional 750,000 installers in 2030 and for reskilling at least 50% of existing installers, to deliver on the REPowerEU Plan objective of doubling deployment rates of building heat pumps. But EBC Secretary General pointed out that attracting, retaining, upskilling and reskilling talent is a historic and structural challenge for the construction sector and all trades, especially crafts, that could benefit from the greening and digitalisation of the industry to change the overall negative image that construction has in our society.

He reminded that 95% of the builders and construction companies are micro-companies with less than 10 employees that directly contribute to local economies, highlighting that vocational training and education are often perceived as the last resort professional option, a perspective that has to change to unlock and embrace the full potential of sustainability in the sector through a major commitment of EU Member States.

He concluded by highlighting good practices from EBC members, notably events targeting Generation Z to showcase the evolution of crafts construction trades and the establishment of a women construction entrepreneurs network in France, mentorship campaigns with influencers to showcase finishing trades in Belgium, train-the-teachers programs on energy efficiency and passive houses in Romania, or ambitious proposals to welcome more talent from migration in construction in Spain.

Already back on 7 June, the EBC Secretary General took part in the webinar The clean energy transition for buildings: Professional associations enhancing renovation skills, organized by the Build Up skills portal in cooperation with EBC, the Federations of European HVAC Association (REHVA), GCP Europe, Renovate Europe and EuropeOn, as an early side event of EUSEW 2023.

On this occasion, the focus was the impact of the adoption of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) on the skills situation in construction and renovation projects. Here, the Secretary General of EBC shared perspectives and experiences with Alice Corovessi, Vice-Chair of Renovate Europe, Pär Lundström, Senior Policy Advisor at the Swedish Installation Federation, Amandine De Coster-Lacourt, Project Adviser at CINEA, and Dragomir Tzanev, Executive Director of the Bulgarian Centre for Energy Efficiency EnEffect.

The full recording of the event is available: click here